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By Amber Hayden
COLFAX — For Tanner and Nicole Nierenhausen, the choice to give back has been instilled in them since they were little, and this Christmas was no different.
Tanner and Nicole are the son and daughter of Bruce and Bonnie Nierenhausen of Colfax, and the Nierenhausen family has a long history of giving back to the community.
Tanner is a senior at Colfax High School, and his sister, Nicole, graduated from Colfax High School in 2016.
Nicole is now attending college and plans to become a speech therapist.
Tanner is the president of the Colfax chapter of the National Honor Society.
The National Honor Society at CHS recently held a “Soup” er “Bowls” fund-raiser to benefit the families of students who have lost parents during the previous year.
For ten dollars, people received a bowl of homemade soup in a hand-crafted pottery bowl of their choice that they could take home. The bowls, designed and hand-crafted outside of class time, were made by NHS students and teachers in the school district, and Tanner made several bowls for the fund-raiser.
Nicole was an active member of the Girl Scouts for many years and sold thousands of boxes of Girl Scout cookies. During her senior year in high school, she earned $500 from selling Girl Scout cookies and then used the money to buy groceries at Kyle’s Market in Colfax for the Caring Ministries Food Pantry. When Nicole finished her shopping spree, she had five heaping carts of groceries for the food pantry.
In the summer of 2013, Tanner, who was outside his family’s camper near Sand Creek, saved a woman from choking by delivering the Heimlich maneuver. Tanner said he learned how to do the technique listening to his mother teach life-saving skills to Girl Scouts.
In January of 2011, Bonnie Nierenhausen was honored at the Brave Hearts and Real Heroes American Red Cross Banquet in Eau Claire for assisting Bob Bleskachek, a Town of Wheaton resident, who had fallen off his bicycle in the Town of Colfax and was in the middle of the road, dazed and bleeding.
Bonnie Nierenhausen, a social worker at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, has been an active member of the Colfax After Prom Party Committee for a number of years as well.
In honor of their family’s tradition of finding ways to serve the community, every year, Tanner and Nicole look for some way to help out, and while Tanner was in Eau Claire one day this year, he noticed just how many less fortunate people there were.
“He came home after he had been with his buddies and said, ‘I think we should do something to help them,’” said Bonnie Nierenhausen.
The Nierenhausens decided to donate to Positive Avenues out of Eau Claire. The organization is funded by Lutheran Social Services as well as Eau Claire County, grants and generous community members.
Bonnie, Tanner and Nicole took messenger bags filled with different kinds of toiletries.
The toiletries are a much needed resource for those who are looking for employment and might need to clean themselves up, Nicole said.
Kathrine Stewart of Positive Avenues explained it is always inspiring to see young people contribute.
“They are an exemplary example of pure-hearted kindness,” Stewart said. “They don’t ask for anything in return. They don’t want the accolades. (They) feel good about making others feel good, and that is a wonderful way to instill continued goodwill throughout a lifetime.”
Stewart has been with Positive Avenues for three years. She began as an intern before being hired on by Sue Howe, the program supervisor.
“LSS acquired the program from Eau Claire County in 1998, and it is open to anyone aged 18 or older,” Stewart explained. “We have policies in place to keep order and for the greater good.”
Positive Avenues, a non-profit where those less fortunate are welcome in a safe environment free of stigma, provides for the basic needs of individuals living with mental health concerns and/or those experiencing homelessness, Stewart said.
The program offers a noon meal twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays, daily snacks, a food pantry on Fridays, internet access, a phone patrons can use, an activity room, a storage room with lockers for patrons to store their items, along with the ability to receive mail. The program also offers case management to provide resources and referrals to local community agencies.
“We offer the ability to receive mail because it is an often overlooked service for those experiencing homelessness,” Stewart explained.
The community is welcome to donate to Positive Avenues by speaking directly with Howe or Stewart, through www.lsswis.org/LSS/Programs-Services/Mental-Health/Resource-Centers/Positive-Avenues, or mailing a check directly to 320 Putnam Street, Unit 12, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703.
“We’d be happy to meet with anyone (who) is interested in donating their time, talents or monies to our cause,” Stewart said. “I always like to say Positive Avenues is one of Eau Claire’s best kept secrets. We do amazing things with and for amazing people.”
Positive Avenues has extended their hours to seven days a week from November to April to better care for the needs of the community. They are open Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.